Interview with Balázs Barna, Deutsche Telekom ICSS

Since joining Deutsche Telekom ICSS in 2001, Balázs Barna has witnessed firsthand the growth of the Balkans market. He explains the new challenges facing the region.


When I joined Deutsche Telekom 10 years ago the market was, of course, very different. International wholesale mainly revolved around exchanging voice minutes on a bilateral basis and selling circuits on low bandwidths compared to today’s standards. Those were the old days. The development in networks combined with the increased availability of fibre in more territories, has created a more competitive environment. Several years ago, the Balkans was considered an area with its own potential for growth, but today it acts more as a motorway between growing markets, such as the Middle East and Asia, and more mature markets in Europe. Deutsche Telekom ICSS expects to get a significant share of this business, relying on the networks of our affiliated companies to create new opportunities.

My role at Deutsche Telekom focusses on CEE and the Mediterranean – a really interesting region with a diverse range of markets. There are some very mature markets like Switzerland, Austria and Italy, while some countries in the east are in the early stages of – or are still awaiting liberalisation and lack infrastructure.

The biggest challenge we face in the Balkans is the price drop in services caused by fierce competition among operators, especially in IP transit and transport. So far Deutsche Telekom ICSS has been coping but there is pressure on our network colleagues to keep up with the high standards expected of Deutsche Telekom. If this trend continues, customers who pay very low prices in the market for their servces, in some cases, may not get the required quality even if carriers successfully manage to reduce some of their cost elements.

On the other hand, in recent years we have seen a shift from traditional SDH-based transport services to MPLS-based IP-VPN networks. I am very optimistic and expect further growth of the product as with our carrier grade unmanaged solution we cover most countries in central and south eastern Europe.

The Balkans lags slightly behind western Europe but shows more interest in innovative services such as content delivery networks or unified communications. A good example is the increasing demand of the media as it generates more data as it transfers to online. It is important to take an active role in this segment to better serve the growing needs of our customers.

Similar to other regions, the international traffic of mobile operators in the Balkans, continues to grow. T-Mobile recently announced flat data roaming options available on all EU networks. I expect that other mobile operators will follow and wholesale carriers will also see the increasing traffic stream on their networks.